I had the wonderful opportunity this month to interview Author Joe Prosit about his new book “Machines Monsters and Maniacs.” Joe is an independent author living in Brainerd, Minnesota with his wife and family. Well known for his writing of short stories, he has won many awards for his writing. Science Fiction, Horror, and Psycho Fiction are not usually in my wheel house of readings. However, I enjoyed every short story in this book. Though it is important to note, I read them in the afternoons and not at night.
What inspired you to start writing?
I don’t know if there was a time in my life when I wasn’t writing. Playing with Star Wars and GIJoe toys turned into drawing comics which turned into writing books and I never really stopped. When I was a kid, writing was a way to funnel my hyperactivity into something cool and exciting during the long boring hours of school. Now that I’m a little more grown up, I still channel my angst and emotion into fiction. But instead of just superheroes, monsters, and laser beams, now it’s fear, grief, remorse, existential dread… and heroes, monsters, and lasers.
What comes first plot or character?
Long before I get to work on the plot or character specifics, I come up with a general setting and vibe of a story. Right now there’s a proto-story swimming around in my head about this land full of meandering silent giants and two governments who are vying for the population’s faith and loyalty. There’s this girl who drives a fast car and smuggles magic drained from the giants across the borders, but I don’t know what she’s like yet other than she’s a nihilist. Do I have a character yet? Not really. Do I have a plot yet? Not at all. But soon, they’ll blend together into something that complements each other. It’s always a dance between character and plot. Without one, the other is nothing.
Tell us about your new book, “Machines Monsters and Maniacs.”
Machines Monsters and Maniacs is a collection of sixteen short stories that have been published in various websites, anthologies, podcasts, and magazines over the past five years. Equal parts science fiction, horror, and what I call “psycho fiction,” if you enjoy the strange, the scary, the odd, the sinful or the mind-bending, there’s something in this collection for you.
Physical, digital, and audio copies are available at my website www.JoeProsit.com. If you already have a copy, let others know you enjoyed it by leaving a review on Amazon.
What advice would you give a new writer starting out?
The devil says the worst vice is advice, but I’ll try to come up with something.
First, have fun. Write what you want to write. Keep yourself excited about your characters, your plot, your setting, and your style. After you’ve had some practice, don’t be afraid to get your work out into the world where you can get some honest feedback from other writers, editors, agents, and the like. Don’t expect immediate success. Always work on your craft. Always try to get better. Keep writing. Put your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard and write.
Tell us what you are working on now and when we can expect to see it.
My current work in progress is titled, “The Shadows Between the Trees.” Right now it’s in its second draft and needs plenty of polishing. A long way to go before it’s ready to be published, but here’s goes my first draft of the elevator pitch:
The Shadows Between the Trees is an adult cosmic horror novel set in small-town Northern Minnesota. When Conrad, an out-of-work businessman, hears his abusive father died, he returns home after twenty-seven years for the funeral only to find he’s inherited his dad’s dilapidated barbeque joint and a half a million dollar debt. But his problems really only begin when he’s stalked by towering sentinel monsters who inject false memories into his mind to lure him away from reality and into the void so they can take humanity’s place on Earth. In order to stop them, Conrad must discern friend from foe, reality from lies, and come to terms with his own past.
Hopefully that’s enough to excite your curiosity while I finish it, edit it, and get it in print. As always, watch for updates on my website, or follow me on Twitter @JoeProsit. Thanks!
I am proud to announce the first book in The Cold Case Chronicles: A Kamira Jackson Mystery is now available for pre-sale.
It was a fun book to write. The characters a joy to build. I especially like Willie Mae Gordon, Kamira Jacksons aunt. Willie Mae at eighty-eight years old is a Traiteur. A healer. She has her own specialized herb healing garden out back of her kitchen, and many people come to Willie Mae to be healed. Willie Mae does not take money for payment, as you will see when she answers the door to greet Kamira, holding a live chicken.
Read more for the description of Mississippi Moonshine.
Forty-six years ago, two brothers were killed and thrown in the Wolf River. Can a troubled detective surface the truth before her own life is at risk?
Atlanta cop Kamira Jackson can’t forgive herself for getting caught and held captive for ninety days. Feeling unworthy of her job, she flees to Mississippi only to be confronted by a police chief who isn’t happy with his jurisdiction employing a Black policewoman. And she fears she’s being set up to fail when she’s given a decades-old murder assignment, and only six months to crack the case.
Vowing to beat the challenge and with the help of a retired veteran, Jackson retreads the slaying of two men shot point-blank and found floating in the isolated swamplands. But exposing an almost half-century conspiracy implicating too many powerful suspects might be fatally hazardous to her health.
Can the traumatized investigator overcome her nightmares and solve the cold case?
Mississippi Moonshine is the gripping first book in The Cold Case Chronicles crime thriller series. If you like fast-paced action, determined heroines, and unexpected twists and turns, then you’ll love Kacie Clement’s thrilling mystery.
Buy Mississippi Moonshine to open a can of dark truths today!
Pre Order your copy today! Release date: November 1, 2020
Well, I must get back to writing Book Two, A Shooting, A Drug Deal and a Trail of Ants.
I had the privilege to sit down with Minnesota Author, T. J. Jones, to talk with him about his journey as a writer, and his wonderful Slater Mystery Series. I have read T. J.’s entire mystery series, and recommend this series as a must read, if you enjoy intriguing mysteries.
What inspired you to write?
I learned to read at an early age. Our family lived on a farm several miles from town and we had one channel on the television. Books became my obsession, and naturally I wanted to emulate the people who wrote them. The stories of far-off lands, gunslingers, and a man raised in the jungle by apes fascinated me. I was surprised to learn that people managed to make a living just by putting words to page, and decided early on that it was something I wanted to do. Would do. It’s taken a long time, but I’m finally giving it a shot.
What comes first plot or characters?
I’m not sure why, but all my fiction starts with characters. I do my best to be sure that the people in my books always react consistently and stay in character. Not to say that they can’t evolve, but there needs to be a reason for it. After I know who my character is, I start throwing them into situations that will challenge them, or change them somehow, hopefully for the better. I think the basis for all fiction, written or otherwise, is conflict and resolution. Sometimes the conflict takes place in the world around the character, and sometimes it comes from within. I never outline, but I sometimes jump several chapters ahead and write a scene, then work toward that point. I rewrite a lot, which is fine. Sometimes I find things, whole chapters, even whole new people that I hadn’t considered the first time around.
How much fun was it to develop Slater’s character, and how many books are now published in the series?
I wanted Eric Slater to be extraordinary, but not too much so. He’ll never take on a room full of bikers or hang from the side of a 747; but he does have certain talents, a good sense of humor, and an honest affection for the people around him. His relationship with Maggie wrote itself, and their bond will continue to grow throughout the series. In each of the books he learns something about himself, and the reader learns something about his strengths and his faults.
There are currently four Slater Mysteries, with one more in the works. Depending upon inspiration, the Corona virus, and the vagaries of fate, there may be many more. We’ll see.
What advice would you give a new writer before starting out?
Since you asked, Kacie, I will volunteer what I have learned not to do as a new writer. When I started my first book, Callie’s Secret, a second cousin who is in the publishing business gave me some advice. She told me to do my best work, rewrite until I was happy, then put it away for three months. Then, if I wasn’t happy, rewrite it again until I was satisfied.
Did I listen? No. Do I wish I would have? I’m really not sure. Getting that first book out as fast as I could was incredibly satisfying, and thanks to the wonders of self-publishing, I was able to do my rewriting after the fact. But my advice to others? Listen to my second cousin and take your time.
Tell us about your new release coming out.
The next Slater Mystery will be titled “Slater’s Game” and will probably drop around Thanksgiving. Happy reading everyone. T.J. Jones
Author rejuvenation, what exactly does that mean? I tried googling it but came up with nothing specific for Authors. We all know as authors we get bogged down in tasks that take time away from our writing. For me, it is cleaning house, laundry, caring for my mom in law full time with Alzheimer’s, or board member task’s for my writing group. Sometimes it becomes all so overwhelming. Especially since I am supposedly retired.
After conducting my research on rejuvenation for an author, and not finding any unique ideas, I took things in my own hands. How, when feeling overwhelmed and needing a break was, I going to rejuvenate myself both physically and emotionally?
I decided it was time for some radical rejuvenation time, to once again center, find my balance and focus. So, I did something few dares to do today. I rented a cabin with the spouse and spent the week with no Television, no I-Phone, and no WIFI. Detached from the world and all its problems.
Now, I have to tell you the first full day was a struggle, I couldn’t check my sales of books, status of my Amazon Ads, I could not tweet, or spend any time on Facebook or Pinterest. I survived.
One thing I noticed, however, is that with an I-phone and no WIFI, you still receive notifications for all emails, tweets, and so on. That made the first day a struggle. It was time to handle that one important notification. Yes, I had to walk a quarter of a mile to reach a WIFI signal and forward an email.
The next few days were perfect. Quiet, relaxing, and entertaining. There is nothing like waking to the sound of loons calling on the lake. Going for walks in the early morning, fishing, and watching the stars come out at night to rejuvenate the spirit.
After that first day, I no longer paid attention to any notifications. When I made that decision a sign of peace came across me. I relaxed. I was letting go of the daily grind and getting into nature. Specifically, a squirrel who liked animal crackers. We bonded over animal crackers. Well, as much as you can bond with a squirrel. But the little guy was entertaining. He was there each morning, watching me from a few feet away as I had my first cup of coffee, watching the sun come up over the lake. No doubt waiting for an animal cracker, as I do not think the little guy was there for me personally.
I would recommend to all authors you find the time to shut down from the world completely. Whether it is for a day or a week. Take the time. Find your center, your balance, peace, and the time to enhance your creativity. It is well worth it.
I also have a plan for the next, what I now call my, “Drop the World Experience.” Three days alone in the woods, with my laptop, doing nothing but writing. I fully plan to take this next experience in the middle of a Minnesota Winter. Our winters are snowy and often cold, so I will need a fireplace, sweatpants, sweatshirt, and wooly cabin socks. Most definitely some Cameron’s Lakes and Shores coffee.
How do you Rejuvenate? Let me know in the comments. Share your ideas, experience to help others in finding that peace and balance.
An author friend and I were talking one day and discussing the challenges of marketing our books as Indie Authors. During our discussion she mentioned Bryan Cohen had a new 5 day Amazon Ad Challenge coming up.
I laughed. Amazon Ads were not only a mystery to me, but had been a challenge as well over the past three years. She convinced me to try it. Five days, it was free, so I thought, why not? It might be a great way to expand my knowledge as a relatively new author, and then just maybe I could figure out how to do ads on Amazon.
Over the past two weeks, I have taken Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ad Challenge. After the first video, I was excited and ready to get to work. The guy is inspiring if nothing else. Half way through the program, I was mind boggled, racing to write hooks for all my books, spending time daily making new ads on Amazon. Alot of new ads.
As the program went on I found, I put everything else aside and dove in headfirst, catching the next new class, and reviewing the past classes to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I am a woman who often has many questions about everything. In this course, I had questions and emailed those questions to Mr. Cohen rapidly. The quality of his team amazed me. They responded almost immediately, answering each question thoroughly, encouraging me to keep moving forward, and were open to any further questions I might have had.
Now, again, this was a free course. The openness of Bryan and his team impressed me. I have taken many classes online in marketing, trying to learn something new. This course has been the most challenging one I have ever done, but it also was the one course that brought me proven results within a week of putting his theory to work.
Bryan takes you on a new and exciting journey. He easily explains the trials and errors of advertising on Amazon, provides wonderful resources and is fun, and has quite the thought provoking homework assignments. I give this training Bryan Cohens Five Day Amazon Ad Challenge a Five Star Rating! In just two weeks, my sales have increased and my Kindle page reads are through the roof!
You can find out more about Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ad Challenge at https://www.bryancohen.com. I believe he has another class coming up in October. Give it a try, I highly recommend it.
This week I interviewed Best-Selling Author Carissa Andrews. Not only does she tell us about her up-coming new book series, “The Windhaven Witch” series, but she shares advice for new and upcoming writers and authors as well.
What inspired you to start writing?
Originally, it was simply the love of reading. I would dabble with short stories and poetry when I was a kid. But when I was 14, I had a really vivid dream that felt more like a past life memory. For whatever reason, I had to write about. At the time, I was really into Fear Street novels by R.L. Stine, so I decided to write a story similar to that. It was the first time I wrote a novel. While that version will never see the light of day, the idea behind it was resurrected just this year.
But more recently, I began writing again in 2010, thanks to the nudging of my long-time best friend, Sherry. I had been struggling with trying to compete in the graphic design market space in our small town. She encouraged me to start writing again. At first, it started with a blog. Then, she gave me a story idea she always wanted to read. This was back in the day of Twilight, so having a strange romance was on her mind. She wanted a ghost story where the woman fell in love with a ghost. What ended up happening instead, was an entire new world downloaded into my brain and the Pendomus Chronicles was born. And no, there’s not a single ghost in that one. HA!
What comes first plot or characters?
For me, it’s a combo. I have some books that were solely developed based on the characters first. The Pendomus Chronicles and Oracle, namely. Their stories developed because I loved the characters and then I gave them a story to go with them. But others, like Awakening, Love is a Merciless God, and even my Windhaven Witches series were more plot driven. I knew what I wanted to share and cover and then I fit those characters around it.
How do you come up with the titles to your books?
Some of them come to me on their own. I knew the first book in the Pendomus Chronicles would be Pendomus because it was an introduction to the world, and since Pendomus is the planet’s name, it just made sense. Polarities came about because my main characters were split up on the planet. And Revolutions has a few meanings. Oracle is pretty self-evident if you read the book. Diana Hawthorne is the world’s most powerful psychic, but there’s more to it than that. Other titles, like Love is a Merciless God came about by searching for quotes on the internet. For that one, I searched forbidden love sayings. The title was a bit long for my taste, but it worked. Then, later I realized the acronym for it is LIAMG – and Liam is one of the main characters. So, it totally worked. And the G even does, too… if you think about it. With the Windhaven Witches, I was working with NYT Bestselling Author Rebecca Hamilton and we knew we wanted to develop a series of books that went together and were easily distinguishable. So, we bounced ideas off each other to create a pattern – Secret Legacy, Soul Legacy, Haunted Legacy, and Cursed Legacy.
What advice would you give a new writer starting out?
Learn to love outlines. We all start out with the love of a story, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But outlines will keep you from getting stuck. Especially if you plan on doing this as a career. I started out as a pantser, but ultimately transformed into a hybrid plotter. I’ll develop my storyline, my overall arc, and get as much detail as I can, then I start writing and let the story dictate whether or not I was on the right track. Typically, big elements will stay in place, but it’s the smaller things – how a scene is laid out, who’s in it, etc. that might change.
Tell us about your new release coming out?
My newest release is Secret Legacy, Book 1 of the Windhaven Witches. It comes out on September 15th, 2020. But the remaining 3 books rapid release through the remainder of the year – each a month apart.
Remember when I said I wrote that book when I was 14? Well, Secret Legacy is the resurrection of it. I took the dream and the original concept for the story and mapped out four books to tell the whole tale. Even now, I can still remember the dream like it happened yesterday.
The series itself revolves around a supernatural academy, various supernatural witches and beings, and delves into the darker realms of death, rebirth, and resurrection. Go figure, right?
☆☆~~ 50% of Royalties Donated to the American Cancer Society! ~~☆☆
Nestled in the woods of Windhaven, Blackwood Manor waits to unleash a dark and deadly legacy…
When Autumn Blackwood shows up at Windhaven Academy for the Witching Stick Orientation, she hopes to find out what dormant powers she could possibly possess to have been accepted to the elite supernatural school. Instead, the academy is in chaos as everyone frantically hunts for two missing girls.
But as school begins with Autumn no closer to figuring out her powers, strange occurrences start to follow her everywhere. Even at home, Blackwood Manor keeps many secrets, and Autumn can’t escape its haunting past.
New friends urge her to learn more about her family’s history in order to unlock her powers and make sense of what’s happening at Blackwood Manor, but Autumn’s not so sure. Once an accident brings Autumn face-to-face with death, however, she realizes her gifts are tied to a legacy that can either save or doom them all…
Fans of Kelley Armstrong, Joe Hill, and Jennifer Armentrout will love The Windhaven Witches!
You have taken your writing experience to a new level, can you tell us a little about Author Revolution?
Absolutely! Through my company, Author Revolution, I teach budding authorpreneurs how to craft stories that resonate and how to get them out in the world with a rapid release indie publishing model. Author Revolution started officially in 2019, but I’ve been teaching indie authors how to write and publish their books since 2015 or so. My background in publishing is pretty extensive. I’ve worked in the front-end at multiple bookstores, I’ve worked for publishers, printers, marketing firms, and I have a degree in graphic design. There isn’t much I haven’t learned about the world of indie publishing at this point and I love taking that knowledge and sharing it with others. I have taught both online and in-person courses.
Author Revolution has a weekly podcast, 3 online courses currently available, and my flagship course, Rapid Release Roadmap is in the process of being built now.
Who has spent entirely too many hours researching their newest novel? I know I have. Sometimes to the point I can spend an entire day watching how to build a pipe bomb video. Yes, I do believe one day the FBI will show up at my front door at which time I will award them with free books of my mystery and thriller crime novels. Note to self: keep fresh cookies and coffee on standby.
I have found self-discipline seems to be the key. I often found I was getting sidetracked by minor research as I was writing. Which ended up in my loss of consistency in writing. My advice to new writers is, keep your inner perfectionist under control, be practical in your research. I am a Virgo. Therefore, I am a perfectionist.
I have finally developed a plan for researching each new book I write. I break my research down into two categories. The first category being, before writing research and the second category, after the first draft research. I keep my research organized, using Evernote. It is a magnificent tool for research.
My before writing research consists of researching the locations I am using as a reference. Right down to location, culture, history, plant life, etc. I try to visit that location if my checkbook allows. If not, the internet allows you to travel to that destination and research key points.
From that point, I am developing my major character arcs. For example, one of my characters in my new upcoming series, The Cold Case Chronicles, is a Traiteur. A healer. I researched everything I could find on Traiteur’s, building it in to her character arc.
Once I finished my character development, my story outline, and scene progression. I then start to write my current book. Which brings me to step two in my research development. Researching after the first draft. This is the simple part. When writing, when I come to a part in which I need more research to make my story more interesting, I insert (Research) and highlight it in yellow. It is as easy as that.
After the first draft, I go back and make notes on what added research needs completion, and why. I then conduct my next step research and start my second draft.
Remember, always put your story first. Often authors feel a lack of research and feel they need more and more research. That can often be nothing other than a lack of confidence. Be Bold! Self-discipline is the key. Many hours of research can cause authors to become sidetracked by minor research while writing. Some writers spend so much time researching, they never quite get around to writing that next best seller. So go forth, be bold and write your next best seller!
What are your tips for researching? Leave a comment below.
In my vast research I have found that writers come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Which brought me to the thought process of what do you wear when writing that first novel?
When I worked in the professional world, I was someone who dressed every day in business attire. Then came retirement and my fresh adventure of being a novelist. The first month, I dressed as I would go to work. Writing a novel is work, right?
Then my family started asking me where I was going? Even though the sign on my home office door said, ‘Halt, writer at work. Enter at your own risk.’ It seemed they were expecting me to leave at any moment.
Then I joined a writer’s club and seen what they were wearing. That is where my confusion began. Some wore casual office attire, some wore jeans and t-shirts, some were lucky to be wearing any clothes at all. They all looked different. I had dressed professionally for the occasion of my first meeting.
It was then I started my research of how writers dressed. This the result from my massive research:
The Artsy Writer: included scarves, flowing tunics, bright and earth colored, were confident and bold.
The Eclectic Writer: leaned more toward vintage clothing, with cowboy boots paired with lace.
The Sexy Writer: leaned towards short-short skirts and plunging necklines.
The Business Writer: included, skirts, hose, heels, and button-down shirts.
The Casual Writer: leaned towards clean and comfortable. Making the statement, I need not impress anyone vibe.
The Funky Writer: dresses in ripped jeans, a Queen t-shirt, rainbow colored hair, kind of rock-band vibe.
After all that research time, I threw the research conducted away. I have now published five books and have concluded that it did not matter how I dressed. I realized my writing attire at all times is to wear pajamas. It is inspirational and comfortable. When I leave the house, well, it is whatever is available in the closet. Dress for success is no longer in my vocabulary. I look at going to the store, post office, or whatever errand I am on, as going incognito. You never know what you may hear while waiting in line that generates your next big story.
So if you’re a writer, wear what makes you most comfortable, even if the UPS guy reminds you it is three in the afternoon, as he takes in your pajamas when you answer the door.
For further research, let me know what your writing style is in the comment section below.
I love adventure, crime, and political fiction books. C.G. Cooper’s brilliance shines in new and unexpected ways in the Corp’s Justice series. I have just finished the sixteenth book in the series, and every one of those books has an unexpected twist. It is a journey through the lives of an elite team of former soldiers.
The principal character is Cal Stokes, who is extremely brave, loyal, yet has many vulnerabilities. Watching him grow, fall, and get back up is not only a joy, but inspiring. His friendships are amazing, funny, and when one-character dies, you grieve right alongside Cal Stokes. Every book in the series grabs your interest in the first few pages, holds you close, and takes you on the adventure with them as they fight for this country’s freedom.
Amazingly enough, as an avid reader I wonder how I did not find C.G. Cooper’s books earlier. How I came to find this brilliant author was, I had just finished another crime series, and was searching my Kindle for a different read. I came across the Daniel Briggs series and thought it might be an interesting read. I can honestly tell you it took me exactly four days to finish that series.
The Hubby was wondering if I would ever cook again and asked me if he should be concerned with whom this Daniel Briggs was. He has since reminded me that while I was reading the Daniel Briggs series; I was telling him each day what Daniel had done that day. He did not realize I was talking about a book. He was wondering where I met this guy.
After finishing that series, I took a few days off, fixed the Hubby some food, but could not get my mind off on how great these books were. Daniel Briggs dragged you right there beside him through the entire series. So, I pulled out my Kindle, and I was off on a search for another series by C. G. Cooper. I came across and read the Corp’s Justice 1-3 box set, not yet realizing there were an overall of 16 books in the series.
The most striking thing about the Corp’s Justice series is the brilliance of C. G. Cooper’s ability to build characters. Throughout the series, new characters come in, and a few lost. It shows how their team builds their friendships and have fun arguing at the same time. The challenges the team face, the foes, or enemies they face in each book are nothing short of riveting.
I cannot name a single aspect I did not like about this series. The result, sixteen books composed professionally, fully researched, and filled with diverse personalities. I give this series five stars and highly recommend you take the time to read this series. It will take you on a course filled with action, adventure, crime, and romance.
I am also now impatiently waiting for October to come, when book seventeen, “Matters of State” is due for publication on Amazon. Now that I have finished all sixteen books over the last few months, I am sad to say the Hubby has lost ten pounds, but he now knows how to order take out delivery.
The final part of Giant by Nature. I hope you have enjoyed the story.
I pulled my head into my shell just as the truck came to an abrupt stop, pushing me hard enough into the box surrounding to break the front of the box apart. Tommy’s father opened the back of the truck and putting a ramp against the back of the truck for me to walk down. I heard Tommy say, ‘Come on Fernando, we need to hurry.’ Then I heard Tommy’s father yell, ‘Julie, get Tommy on the boat.’ I didn’t know who Julie was, but I watched as a woman grabbed Tommy and ran. I moved as fast as I could down that ramp. That woman had Tommy. I had to save him. I followed the woman as fast as I could, hearing Tommy’s dad saying, ‘Hurry Fernando!’
When I got to the boat, I could barely breathe. I may swim at twenty miles an hour in an ocean; on land is another story. My stubby legs and arthritis only let me go so fast, but I made it. As the boat was pulling away into the ocean, everyone on the boat including me, I saw and heard a lot of noise and saw many lights. I figured unless they were going to swim, they were not going to catch me.
I looked around, and the woman was holding Tommy. She was holding him, rocking him back and forth. I walked over to Tommy and stretched my neck for a scratch hearing him say, ‘Mom this is my friend Fernando.’ I was relieved, I didn’t have to worry, that woman was Tommy’s mother.
It was a long trip. I was glad I had the time to spend those days with Tommy. We sat in the sun, and I gave Tommy rides around the boat. That woman, his mother, she fed me watermelon every day. I thought earthworms were good. I could spend all day eating watermelon. I don’t think they realized I could go a year with without eating or drinking anything, but I wasn’t going to turn down the snacks they were giving me.
One morning I was sitting in the sun napping, Tommy was lying on my back and I heard Tommy’s father say, ‘There is the Island!” I looked out the back of the boat and indeed I was home. I was excited and sad at the same time. Tommy climbed down from my back, and said, ‘Fernando, you are home!’ I honked in response to him.
I watched Tommy begin to cry, and I rubbed my head on his red shirt. I knew it was time to say goodbye. I listened as Tommy’s father and the Captain talked about how they could push me off the boat so I could swim to shore. I think they were wondering if I would know what to do.
Tommy’s father said, ‘It is time Tommy Fernando is home and we need to let him go now.’ I rubbed my head on Tommy’s leg and stretched my neck one last time for a scratch. Tommy scratched my neck. He wrapped his arms around my neck and said, ‘I love you, Fernando. Don’t ever forget me. I don’t want you to worry, I will be okay now that I know you will be safe.’
Tommy’s father and the captain opened the door on the back of the boat. I looked at Tommy one last time and dove into the water and swam to shore. I walked to join the others sunning on the rocks and raised my flipper to wave goodbye to Tommy as I watched the boat begin to sail back to San Diego.
I looked at Mateo, and he was smiling. ‘Great story Dad, I am glad you came back home.” “I am too son, now go on back up the hill to the women, I bet they have a treat ready for you. I am proud of you Mateo. Remember this story and tell the others.’ ‘I will dad!’ I watched Mateo move back up the hill. As I looked out across the calm deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, I wondered if Tommy was at peace. It was time to find out. Time to look for that next neck scratch from Tommy. I am one hundred and fifty-one years old. I looked at the Island one last time knowing that Mateo and the other sixteen hundred offspring I have produced would carry on my legacy. All I must do is jump in the ocean one last time, and Tommy and I will be together again. Raising my arthritic body, I jumped into the ocean. Hitting the cool water, I am at peace.
Welcome to part two of my Giant By Nature Short Story. Enjoy! Watch for the last part of the Story next Saturday.
The next Saturday morning, I was at the fence waiting for Tommy to arrive. I saw his father waiting in line with his friend, one of the zookeepers. I didn’t see Tommy. I was worried. Why would Tommy’s father be there without Tommy? I waited for their turn to come. Tommy’s father said, ‘Hello Fernando, I have your carrots.’ I stretched my neck, looking around him, trying to find Tommy. I reluctantly took the piece of carrot; Tommy’s father gave me.
I heard Tommy’s father say to his zookeeper friend, ‘He is looking for Tommy. I was at the hospital this morning, and the doctors told us that Tommy only has a few months left, that the seizures in his brain are getting worse. I don’t know what to do. Tommy’s only wish in life is for Fernando to be safe once he is gone.’ I watched Tommy’s father’s eyes fill with tears. I honked, trying to let him know I understood. I listened closely as his friend said, ‘Then that is what we will do. Tomorrow night we will take Fernando. I have a friend who owns a boat. Fernando originally came here from the Galapagos Islands to bring his species back from extinction. He has done his job. What do you say we take him back home?’
I got excited. These two men wanted to take me home. I started honking loudly, shaking my head back and forth. I needed them to realize that I understood them. Tommy’s father said, ‘I think he can understand us.’ Then he gave me a fat earthworm and said, ‘I will be back tomorrow night with Tommy, Fernando. We are taking you home.’
I ambled up to my favorite rock wondering how to say goodbye to the girls. The next morning, the girls and I went for a swim and sunned ourselves on the rocks. It was time to say goodbye. I said to the girls, ‘Della, Corrine and Fancy, I have news. I am leaving tonight. Tommy’s dad and that zookeeper, Bert, are coming to get me tonight to take me home to the Island. I want you to know I will miss all of you. It is time to say goodbye. Soon another turtle will come to take my place.’
Poor Della, she couldn’t breathe. She said, ‘I don’t care who they bring, I will have no part of him. None of us will, right, girls? There will no longer be any eggs laid at this zoo. I will miss you Fernando, but I am glad you are going home to live out the rest of your life in peace. If a distraction is needed when they come for you tonight, we have that covered.’
Never have I felt such love. I spent the rest of the day sunning and wondering what life would be like on the Island. Darkness fell, and I heard a truck and I knew Tommy’s father had come. They had a gigantic box and had laid carrots out. I believe they thought they needed to entice me into the box. I was ready. I was going home. I went willingly into the box, picking up a few carrots on the way.
We were off! I could hear Tommy in the front of the truck say, ‘Thank you Dad. Fernando will be happy on his Island.’ I was happy to hear Tommy was with us and not in the hospital. I didn’t mind the bumpy ride at all.
Suddenly, I heard loud noises. I had heard them before, coming from the road in front of the zoo. My box filled up with blue and red lights. The truck started to slow. I could hear Tommy’s father say, ‘It’s okay Tommy, we will get Fernando to his Island.’ I shuddered. I knew something was wrong. I listened carefully to the men talk outside saying, ‘Bert, what do you have in the box?’ Bert laughed, and said, ‘It’s Fernando, the missing sea turtle. Looks like the old guy went for a walk. Found him five miles from the zoo, just strolling down the boulevard.’ I saw a face looking through the slats in the box. I smiled at him and started to sing, letting him know I was fine.
I heard the man say, ‘You are not headed back to the zoo, Bert. Where are you going?’ Bert laughed and said, ‘I was having dinner and thought Tommy here would like to go help search for Fernando, I am just dropping them off at home and heading back to the zoo.’ Listening, I heard the other man say, ‘Sounds good. I will let the zoo know you found Fernando and are on your way back.’
The lights moved away, and I heard Bert say to Tommy and his father, ‘We have to move fast. The boat is waiting.’ It felt like the truck I was in was moving fast. I was having a hard time keeping my balance and for a seven-hundred-pound turtle that is not easy.
It wasn’t long after that I could smell the saltwater. Wouldn’t you know it? I could hear those noises and see the blue and red lights again. It seemed like the truck was going even faster. Then the truck turned to the left, and I almost tipped over. I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I didn’t know what Tommy would do if I had to go back to the zoo.
On May 25th, 2020 our community, our State, and our world watched the behavioral outcomes of systemic racism displayed by four Minnesota police officers responsible for the killing of a human being. We watched as one white officer in an intentional act of overt discrimination knelt on the neck of a Black man, while three other officers were complicit displaying gross negligence and in action in the death of George Floyd.
Again, we are reminded of the injustices that exist in our world. This is not a political issue; it is a human rights issue. The late Dr. James Cone in his book, The Cross and the Lynching tree wrote: “The claim that whites had the right to control the black population through lynching and other extralegal forms of mob violence was grounded in the religious belief that America is a white nation called by God to bear witness to the superiority of white over black.”
It is time that we all must actively come together to help combat systems of oppression for all minority groups. It is well within our responsibilities to support and advocate for our family and friends when systems have continuously failed them. We as white people need to take personal accountability for how we continue to perpetuate racism at every level in society. We need to educate ourselves on how to be vocally anti racist. Then we need to take that knowledge and apply it every day, becoming effective in the stance of opposing systemic racism. We often hear all lives matter. Well, all lives can’t matter if Black lives don’t matter.
We all have heard those words, “I can’t breathe.” George Floyd uttered those words in May 2020, Eric Garner uttered those same words eleven times in 2014 before dying. It is the collective voice of black Americans and we as white Americans must acknowledge those words and act to resolve. We must and can do better at dismantling a system that favors us and work together to build a better future of equality and dignity for all Americans.
As writers, our words matter. Our words have power. How many of us challenge ourselves by including people of color in our novels? Do you use people of color as a stereotype, such as an Asian man is great at martial arts? Together we must all work together to dismantle inequality. We can all work to being more conscious when writing what we love. Do your part in making change, make your words matter.
Excited to share a new short-story I wrote recently. I will share the story in three parts over the next three weeks. I hope you enjoy it! Please leave a comment, telling me what you think of the story.
I am a Giant of Nature. When you are a sea turtle as old as I am, one hundred and fifty years old. All you want to do is lie on a rock and take in the sun. My son, Mateo, five years old, seemed determined not to let me spend my afternoon napping. “Dad, how did you come to be on our Island?” He asked. I stretched my long leathery neck to look back up the hill to see what the others were doing. They were all resting. Stretching my arthritic body, I smiled at Mateo. He was always interested in everything. Mateo always had a story to tell.
I smiled at Mateo, looked out at the calm sea off the Galapagos Islands and began my story, knowing that Mateo would tell the story again and again.
I was one hundred years old and living at the San Diego Zoo. One Saturday morning, I slept in late, and went out to the yard that overlooked the pool where I often swam. I found the girls, Della, Corrine, and Fancy already enjoying the sun of the day. Della said to me, ‘Good Morning Fernando, it is Saturday and your sleeping in. Won’t be long and the children will arrive for their visit.’ Then Corrine said, ‘I hope they bring good snacks this week.’ Fancy laughed as she said, ‘Corrine, is that all you think about is the snacks?’
Moving towards the pool for a dip in the cool water, Della said to me, ‘I am worried about your little boy, Tommy. I think he is getting sicker, Fernando. He is now in that chair that rolls around. His dad pushes him everywhere.’ I nodded my head in agreement, thinking Della was right. It had only been the last few months that Tommy would not or could not walk anymore, but I didn’t know what was wrong with him.
Glancing in the pool, I saw my reflection. My face was an old yellow color. After four decades in this breeding pen, I should have expected it. My shell was looking like a house that could use a fresh coat of paint. My excitement in life was my Saturday visits with Tommy. He always brought the best carrots and that red shirt he wore every week was for me. As I jumped in the pool, I thought of the nice neck scratches Tommy gave.
A short time later, seeing the children arriving, I lunged off the rock in the middle of the pool and swam to the bank. Tommy should come soon. I watched as the girls moved to the opening in the pen, letting the other children pet them and feed them snacks. Looking around, I saw Tommy sitting in that chair, alone while he waited in line. Where is his dad? The two zookeepers were standing with him. Tommy looked upset as I ambled towards the fence where Tommy was sitting.
As I got there, Tommy was crying, and his dad was trying to console him. I may not have ears, like Tommy had, but I could hear him speak. Tommy said, ‘But Dad they said Fernando is too old now. They will take him away and bring another boy turtle in to replace him.’ Shocked, my beady eyes widened. The Zoo planned on taking me somewhere? I watched Tommy wipe his nose on his shirt, and heard him say, ‘Where is this place, euthanized Dad? Can we go there?’ ‘Where did you hear that word Tommy?’ Tommy’s father asked. ‘The zookeepers said that he is too old and needs to go to euthanized. Where is that dad?’
I couldn’t move, Euthanized? I knew what that meant. They were planning on killing me. I heard Tommy choke, not being able to catch his breath. It scared me. I moved closer to the fence and stretched my long neck so Tommy would see me. As his father was giving Tommy a drink from that bottle, I pulled my body onto the rock next to him and started singing. Tommy saw me, and I watched as he laughed.
‘Fernando, you are here! I promise I won’t let them take you away to euthanized, I will save you. I love you.’ I sang higher, and as Tommy moved up in the line, I followed him, staying close to the fence. ‘My dad and I cut your carrots last night Fernando, and I even brought some earthworms I had dad dig up last night for me.’
I smiled at Tommy, honking even louder in response. Earthworms, my favorite! When Tommy got to the opening, the girls moved aside. They could see Tommy had been crying and needed to spend time with me. Tommy scratched my neck lovingly, giving me first a piece of carrot and then an earth worm. Though I enjoyed the snacks, I could tell Tommy’s head hurt, and it worried his father. I looked at his father, while I stretched my neck further for Tommy. I saw the tears in Tommy’s father’s eyes and my heart broke. There was something wrong with Tommy. As he stroked my neck, he seemed weaker.
I heard the bell ring; it was time for the next group of children to have their turn. I looked at Tommy as he whispered, ‘I will save you Fernando, I can’t die knowing they will send you away.‘
Die? Tommy would die. He’s just a kid. I was 100 years old. Why was he going to die? I watched as his father patted Tommy’s shoulder and started moving him away, back to their car. I felt sick. I ambled back to the rock I sat on most of the day, not interested in the other children.
As I climbed up on the rock, I heard Fancy say, ‘Something is wrong with Fernando girls, let’s go.’ The girls moved away from the waiting children, to sit with me in the sun. I watched the disappointed children that had been patiently waiting their turn, as the girls came toward me, taking their places in the sun. Della asked, ‘What’s wrong, Fernando?’
I lovingly looked at the girls, who had been part of my life the last seventy years at the Zoo and said, ‘I have outlived my purpose. They are planning to kill me and bring in a younger male. Worse, my friend Tommy is dying. I am not sure why, but there is nothing I can do.’ It had been a long morning. I pulled my head into my shell to reflect on my life and what was to come. Unless a miracle happened, my life was soon ending. If my life ended, what would become of Tommy?
It has been a joy to write this book. Though the publishing has been challenging. I am including the first two chapters. I hope you enjoy the sneak preview and will consider buying.
I will reward a FREE E-book version of Arctic Eagle on June 12th, 2020 to one lucky new subscriber!
I am excited to announce starting Saturday, June 13th, I will share a weekly three part short-story with you! Giant by Nature. The story of friendship, between a sea turtle and a little boy.
Now on to your sneak preview!
The spring breeze pushed past her sundress as she opened the door to the Estes Park Coffee shop. Gliding up to the counter, Dana, the owner of the shop, already had her order waiting. One large café Mocha and a Cranberry Scone. Dana smiled as she watched Cindi “Higgy” Higgins breeze through the door. “A wonderful Monday morning to you Higgy, I have your order ready.” “You know me so well, Dana.” Cindi said. Dana laughed from behind the counter, saying, “I do Higgy, I just added it to your tab.” As Cindi walked to her regular table, in the back corner of the coffee shop, she thought, Higgy, what a nickname to have. Laura Henderson is to blame for that nickname. She missed Laura. She missed the activity of playing with Laura’s kids. Cindi was honored to be the godmother to all three of Laura and Tom Henderson’s children. She would call her tonight, and they could catch up.
Sitting at the table, she opened her laptop to check her email, as she did every morning before walking a block over to the White Hat Risk Assessment office, where she worked. Taking a sip of the hot Mocha, her eyes grew wide, her heart raced. Flaming Feather? That was a name she thought she would never hear again. Staring at the screen in wonderment, she thought it has been ten years since she talked to Danny Davis, aka Flaming Feather. Why would he be contacting her now? Opening the email, the message read,
Arctic Eagle, if anything happens to me, you know where to look.
Confused, she read it a second time. Not sure what to do, Cindi sat back in the chair, her thoughts drifting back to her childhood, her past, Danny Davis. Flashes of memories raced through her thoughts, their teenage romance, their arrest, and their conviction under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Looking back at the laptop screen, to read the message again, she found it was no longer there. Blinking her eyes rapidly, Cindi moved closer to the screen of her laptop. The screen was blank, the message gone. Did she imagine it? Confused, she searched her email. There was no record of it ever existing. If she did not get moving, she would be late for work, Cindi hastily closed her laptop and packed it in her messenger bag. Grabbing her cup of coffee to go, she walked down the block to start her day at work.
Briskly entering the offices of White Hat Risk Assessment, Cindi walked to her office, saying good morning to her co-workers as she passed by their desks. Reaching her office cubicle, Cindy sat down. She had a new account to work on today. A Bank whose security system needed to be tested. Turning on the computer on her desk, she stashed her messenger bag underneath the nearby shelf in her cubicle. She spent the next few hours before lunch hacking into the Banks system, finding multiple ways to gather their client’s confidential information.
Stretching, Cindy was startled when she heard her co-worker Mary Stewart say, “Hey Higgy, want to go get some lunch?” Turning in her chair to find Mary behind her, she said, “Not today, I am just going to get some air before I start the report for the bank. It was a breeze getting into their system this morning.” Laughing, she continued, “It is going to take two weeks to get their system secured. Your grandmother could have hacked into that system.” Mary giggled, saying, “I am not teaching my grandmother the tricks of this trade. I will see you after lunch Higgy.”
Cindy stood, grabbing her messenger bag. She walked outside to downtown Estes Park. Feeling the sun’s warmth, and taking a breath of the fresh mountain air, she looked down the street. Tourist season had not started yet, the streets filled only with local patrons. Sitting on her favorite bench around the corner from the office, she gazed up at the surrounding mountains, amazed that even though it was warm for a late April day, there was still snow on the mountain tops. Opening her laptop, she again searched for the email she thought she received that morning from Danny. Nothing was there. Closing her laptop, her thoughts went back to her teen years.
As children, Cindi and Danny were raised in the same foster home. Shortly after Cindi turned 16, the FBI arrested her with a group of five others called the MiamiLink Club. Besides her and Danny, the other three kids were also foster children in various homes in the city. In Miami Florida, they used coffee shops, libraries, and internet cafe’s as their location for hacking into first the local phone company giving them the ability to make free long-distance calls and listen to customers’ calls. They then moved on to hacking into corporate networking systems, as a challenge to see if they could. The Club would have contests on who could break into a company the fastest and do something crazy like implant a worm or change their client’s personal information. Then Chen Williams, one of the club members, the weak link in the club, decided it would be fun to infiltrate the Pentagon network. He never was very smart. That is when they were arrested. Cindi’s code name was Arctic Eagle. Her best friend and boyfriend at the time was Danny Davis, code named Flaming Feather. He was the one who taught her how to hack.
Cindi remembered the trial, and how terrified she was. Convicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, she was sentenced to two years in a juvenile detention center, with three years of probation, and a fine. During her time in the Juvenile Detention Center, Cindi received her GED. With help from a guidance counselor at the center, she became certified as an Ethical Hacker.
Upon her release, that same counselor helped Cindi get a job far from Miami in Estes Park, Colorado working for the company she worked for today. She had been a part of the White Hat group for the last eight years. After her arrest, she had never spoken to or heard from Danny Davis again.
Standing, she thought, that was then, this is now. She had a an excellent job, a cute apartment above the Coffee Shop, friends, and she was now an adult at twenty-six years old. It was time to leave the past behind, and work towards that promotion she wanted as a lead Computer Security Specialist, which would give her a decent raise and the chance to manage a team of four other Specialists. Cindi stood, going back to her office to start the report for the Bank account she had worked on that morning.
Six days later, on Sunday, Cindi sat at her small kitchen table eating the ham and swiss sandwich she had made for lunch, admiring the new soft yellow color of the walls, her and Dana had painted yesterday. Watching it rain out her window, she picked up her phone to call Laura Henderson, her friend and confidante. Waiting for Laura to answer, she heard Laura say, “Higgy! It’s been two weeks since we talked, hang on.” Cindi could hear Laura say, ‘Charlotte, get off that table before you fall. Tom lift her down and give me a few minutes to talk to Higgy.’ Cindi heard Laura’s husband yell in the background, ‘Hi Higgy!’ Laura focusing back on the call said, “Higgy, how are you? Did you get the kitchen painted? I didn’t see any pictures come through yet.” Cindi laughed and said, “Its done, Dana and I spent all of yesterday painting. I love it. How are the kids?”
Laura replied, “Well, as you heard, Charlotte was dancing on the table. At two years old, I wonder about her sometimes, she is always climbing up on things. Michael is doing fine in Kindergarten, his favorite part of the day is nap time, Kevin, who may not live till next month to turn four, is into everything as usual. Did you get the promotion at work?” Cindi laughing said, “I find out next week. I sure miss you at work, Laura. Though, I must tell you, I appreciate the queen-size bed in our bedroom here, rather than the two twin beds.” Laura giggled, and said, “I miss the quiet evenings, when we could sit and watch movies, eat popcorn, and drink wine. I have not had a quiet evening since Michael was born. When are you coming for a visit?” Cindi replied, “I have two weeks of vacation built up. Depends on whether I get this promotion. If I get it, I want to settle in and get my team together, if not, I will make the trip to cry on your shoulder.” Laura laughed loudly, “So what else is new Higgy? Have you met anyone yet?”
Cindi smiled, “I have no time for a man in my life, Laura.” Feeling a chill go up her spine, Cindi said, “Something happened, I am just not sure if I am imagining it or not.” Laura stood, saying, “Hang on, Higgy, I will get Tom to watch the children.” Waving at Tom to watch the children. Laura walked out to the patio in the back of their California home. Sitting on the chaise lounge she said, “I am outside now, it’s quieter. Tell me what happened?” Cindi replied, “Do you remember when I told you about Danny Davis and the story of my teen years?” Laura replied, “I remember, why?”
Cindi said, “I got an email last week from Danny. I have not heard or talked to him in ten years. All it said was if something happens to me you know where to look.” Laura, aghast, said, “What? That is cryptic. Did you reply?” Cindi said, “I was so stunned. The email came from Flaming Feather, his code name. When I went back to read it again, it was gone.” Laura, surprised, said, “Wow! He had to do some searching to find you Higgy, and then to find your current email, send the message and then make it to look like it never existed. What are you going to do?” Cindi replied thoughtfully, “I will do nothing. That part of my life is best left buried. I do not want to open that door again. It is too risky, and life is good. I cannot mess that up.” Laura replied, “That is probably for the best.” Looking up, Laura saw Tom standing at the door, with a crying red-faced Charlotte. Laura said, “Looks like Tom is having trouble with the baby. Text me some pictures of your kitchen and text me as soon as you hear about that promotion. I got to go, Bye Higgy, I love you girlfriend.”
Cindi stood from the table and put her dishes in the sink. Taking a few pictures of the kitchen, she texted them to Laura and then decided with the rainy afternoon, it would be a good idea to take a nap and read that new romance novel she picked up last week at the bookstore.
Monday morning started as usual. Stopping at the Coffee Shop and walking to work. It was still raining. As Cindi entered the office, she closed her umbrella and moved to her desk. Looking at her in-box, she found three more files of new accounts. Placing them on her desk, Cindi sat down, ready to work on the new files. A few minutes later, Gina, her boss, stopped at her desk and said, “Great job on the Marshall Bank account. Can you stop in my office this afternoon? I would like to discuss your new job duties. Congratulations Cindi, the promotion is yours.” Cindi smiled and said, “Really? I got the promotion. Sure, I will be there promptly at one. Thank you, Gina.” Gina beamed, saying, “You deserve it Cindi. I will see you this afternoon.” When Gina had walked away, Cindi swung her office chair in a circle in celebration of her new promotion. Picking up her phone, she quickly texted Laura, ‘I got the promotion!’
Setting her phone down, Cindi opened the top file on the pile she received in her in box and started working. Looking at her watch, thinking it was time for lunch, she would have just enough time to have a sandwich and go to her meeting with Gina. Hearing her cell phone vibrate, she looked to see a number from California calling. Answering, she said, “Hello?” She heard a man’s voice say, “Good morning, am I speaking with Cindi Higgins? This is Samuel Herschel; I am the attorney for Daniel Davis.” Cindi felt like her heart was about to stop. Trying to take a breath, she found it difficult. She said into her phone, “This is Cindi Higgins, what can I do for you?” Mr. Herschel replied, “I am sorry to tell you this over the phone, Ms. Higgins, but Mr. Davis has passed and named you as the executor of his estate. I was wondering if you could come to Los Angeles in the next few days to settle the estate.”
Cindi whispered, “Danny is dead? I have not seen or heard from him in ten years. Why would he leave everything to me? How did he die?” Sam Herschel replied, “Mr. Davis informed me you were the closest he had to family, saying you would know what to do with his estate. I am sorry to inform you; they have ruled his death as suspicious. You have not heard from Mr. Davis in ten years? That’s odd.” Cindi felt the energy leave her body, saying, “Suspicious? What does that mean?” Sam replied, “All I can tell you Ms. Higgins is that his death is still being investigated.” Cindi, taking a deep breath, asked, “Mr. Hershel, do I really need to come to Los Angeles to settle the estate or can we do it by email?” Sam Herschel said, “Mr. Davis has left you his house, and all his belongings, and a considerable amount of money. You will need to come to my office to sign the paperwork, receive the new deed and keys to the home.”
Cindi’s thoughts started flying a mile a minute. She had just received a promotion. Then her heart sank when she remembered the email, she received from Danny last week. Quieting her mind, she said, “Mr. Herschel, I will need to make some arrangements here at work, can I call you later this afternoon, with a time I can arrive?” Mr. Herschel replied, “Yes, that would be fine. I will email you my office location so you can make the proper transportation arrangements. I will look forward to hearing from you later today. Good day, Ms. Higgins.”
Cindi set her phone down on her desk. Her eyes filled with tears. Danny was dead. Fear entered every core of her body. Danny’s death was suspicious and with the email he sent her last week, he knew what was coming. What the hell has he dragged her into now? There is no other choice, I will have to see this attorney. Feeling like her past was rushing back into her life, against her will, Cindi stood and walked out of her office to sit on her favorite bench outside. She needed some air; it was hard to breathe. Sitting on the bench, she was unaware of her surroundings. Her mind kept going over the email, Arctic Eagle, if anything happens to me you know where to look. She had no choice. She would have to go to Los Angeles. She would have to find what Danny wanted her to find. Forty-five minutes later, she entered the building. She slowly walked over to Gina’s office.
Cindi knocked softly on Gina’s office door. Hearing Gina say come in; Cindi entered her office. Gina looked at her watch before saying, “Cindi, right on time.” Cindi sat down in the chair across from Gina’s desk saying, “Gina, something has come up. There has been a death in what you would call my family, and I need to go to Los Angeles and close out the estate. I know you scheduled this meeting to talk about my promotion. Thank you for having the confidence in me to award me with the promotion, I appreciate it. I am sorry, but I need to use my vacation time to handle this.”
Gina looked at Cindi quizzically. “Family? Cindi, when you came to work for me, I understood that you grew up in foster care. What has happened?” Tears rushed to Cindi’s eyes, “It was one of the other foster children in our home, Danny Davis. He has left everything to me, and his attorney has asked I come to California to settle the estate. His attorney asked that I come to Los Angeles to sign the needed paperwork. The attorney said there is a home involved. I need to find a real estate agent to put the house up for sale. As soon as I am done with that I will be returning.” Gina looking surprised said, “It wasn’t one of the boy’s you they arrested you with was it?” Cindi nodded silently, saying, “I haven’t seen or heard from Danny in ten years so I do not understand why he would do this. I do not even know how he found me. When your sister, Camila, made the arrangements for me to come here to start a new life, I know she did not tell anyone what she was doing and took great care in making sure no one would find me. So, I am as surprised as you are.”
Gina nodded her head. Remembering when her sister Camila called her about Cindi. She said she was one of the most talented hackers she had ever seen. A young girl tied into a group that could have destroyed her life. She thought Cindi was a decent girl who could make a difference in the world with her talents. So, she agreed to give her the start she needed, setting her up in an apartment over her best friend Dana’s coffee shop and giving her a job. Over the past eight years, Cindi had flourished and proved her worth to White Hat Risk Assessment.
Gina looked at Cindi and said, “I understand Cindi, take the two weeks and when you return, we will get you set up with your new team. I am bringing four new employees in from around the States. They are young, with similar backgrounds such as yours. I believe you are the one to guide them into becoming assets to White Hat. When are you planning on leaving?” Cindi replied, “I will make the arrangements to leave from Denver tomorrow. If that is okay with you.” Gina said, “Okay, give your new account files to Mary, and check in with me, letting me know when you will return. In the meantime, I will have your team settled in and ready to start when you get back. Why don’t you go home and get things settled to leave? I am sorry you have to deal with this Cindi.” Cindi gratefully looked at Gina saying, “Thank you Gina, I will call you soon.”
Cindi went back to her desk. Straightening her desk, she took her new work files to Mary, saying, “Mary, I have to leave for two weeks to take care of some family business, Gina asked me to give you these new accounts to complete.” Mary replied, “Sure Cindi, is everything okay?” Cindi nodded, and said, “Yes, just some unexpected family business to deal with. I will see you in two weeks.” Cindi went back to her office, got her bag, and walked back to her apartment, stopping into the coffee shop to let Dana know that she was leaving for a couple weeks.
Entering her apartment, Cindi sat down at her desk in the living room, opening her laptop. She quickly made flight arrangements to Los Angeles and organized a Lyft to take her to the Denver airport at nine am the next morning. Checking her email, she saw she had received the email from Sam Herschel. Cindi mapped out his office, finding a hotel within a two-block area. Making one night of reservations, she thought if Danny had left her his house, when she got the keys from Mr. Herschel, she could take a Lyft to the house and stay there. Emailing Mr. Herschel her travel arrangements, she informed him she would be in his office at ten a.m. the day after tomorrow.
Cindi went into her bedroom to pack her suitcase for her upcoming trip. Once completed with that task, she went back to her laptop finding an acknowledgement for the appointment time with Mr. Herschel. Closing her laptop, Cindi quickly reopened it. She conducted an internet search for Danny Davis. Finding nothing but the article of their arrest, she again closed her laptop. Going into the kitchen, she poured herself a glass of wine and settled into the plush deep brown couch in her living room. Taking a sip of the wine, she set the glass on the coffee table in front of her and picked up her cell phone without looking at it. She should call Laura and let her know she was coming. Staring at her phone for a few minutes, she thought better of it. She would call Laura when she got settled into Danny’s house, a house that was now hers. Picking up her glass her wine, she said to herself, if anything happens to me, you know where to look. With a deep feeling in her gut, she knew that her life was about to take an unexpected left turn; she downed the rest of her glass of wine, drew a hot bath, and went to bed.
The next morning, Cindi rose and quickly dressed, getting ready to leave. Carrying her suitcase down the flight of stairs, she walked out the door of the apartment and into the Coffee shop, where she ordered a large Mocha Latte and a Cranberry Scone to go. Seeing the Lyft pull up in front of the coffee shop, her coffee and scone in hand, she pulled her suitcase behind her out the door. The driver loaded her suitcase in the trunk while she settled into the back seat for the hour and a half drive to the Denver airport. Taking a sip of her hot coffee, she placed it in the cup holder next to her and pulled the romance novel she had started the other night out of her bag. Reading a romance novel would keep her thoughts of what was coming at bay.
If you enjoyed the first two chapters, you can get your Free Unlimited Kindle version here.
Though spring is a time of new life, renewal, and warmer weather, I have been spending the morning reflecting on the last month. It is day thirty of the shut in because of the Covid 19 Virus. My hopes are that everyone reading this is well and healthy.
Foremost, one thing I cannot comprehend is why there is a current toilet paper shortage. Is that really what everyone thought of purchasing first? Why not frozen or canned food? Relevant items to use when you are locked in your home. I do not believe that toilet paper is an effective item to prevent getting the Covid 19 virus. There are closet’s around the world filled with toilet paper.
The last thirty days at home have been nothing short of interesting. My mother-in-law who suffers from Alzheimer’s lives with us full time. Normally each morning she enjoys watching the news and reads aloud what crosses the television screen at the bottom of the screen. How do you explain the Corona Virus thirty or more times a day to an Alzheimer’s patient? The solution? Subtitles. I found she will read anything running across the bottom of the screen while you watch something else. Though I have found the Andy Griffith Show on Netflix has kept her laughing without subtitles. Do you know that there are over one hundred and fifty episodes of Andy Griffith?
Then there is the fun of opening Mom’s experiences to Face time and Skype. Trying to figure out how she can see herself and her loved one on a phone and laptop is nothing short of amazing. Then comes the irritation of why can’t they just come and visit, why are we doing this? The most heart wrenching part of all this, is even though Mom can’t remember five minutes ago, there is that space of real time when she hears something on the television and you witness the confusion, the fear, and the realm of anxiety that comes for the next few hours, even though she can’t remember why.
Another realization in my reflection is how I am learning not to even watch the local news stations. If I hear one more word about having so much more time to clean house, tips on how to get your kids to help clean house, or anything that has to do with filling my time with cleaning house, I swear I will toss the television out the front door. I think they should air repeats of Bob Ross shows, or DIY’s on making something creative.
I am trying to make good use of my time. In the early morning hours, I work on writing a new book, Arctic Eagle. Over breakfast with Mom, we have in-depth discussions on planning a deck garden. I have visions of her watering the plants in the mornings, while I sit nearby on the deck writing a new mystery series, The Cold Case Chronicles.
Random thoughts race through my mind. Will much change when we can go to the store again together? I know she will wear a mask. Will the garden centers open in time for us to plant a garden? Dare I make a trip to Walmart for potting soil and seeds? Will I run out of craft supplies? I do not see that happening in the next five years, but the concern is real. Will I have to cancel my vacation plans to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park in August? This will be over by then, right?
I am fortunate my husband is essential, as he reminds me of this daily. He is a truck driver. My daughter owns a hair salon and going insane being home. She has taken to painting signs, I recently found one outside the front door that said, “Made with love and other shit.” She is coloring swear pages, and trying not to panic about losing her business, making her mortgage, having enough to buy food. She is one of those business owners that does not qualify for unemployment. The Grand kids are enjoying the break from College and sleeping till noon daily. This is my life, keeping everyone calm, keeping mom occupied, and being thankful the hubby is working, so we can help family members who need financial support. So, in closing friends, stay healthy, stay safe. Connect with your loved ones however you can. So, in closing friends, stay healthy, stay safe. Connect with your loved ones however you can. Stay calm.
I personally find January to be the dreariest month of the year. In Minnesota we currently have mountains of snow, and today we are expecting another foot to land on my doorstep. This wonderful month tends to be the longest month of the year. Though I must admit, as the snow falls from the sky, it is beautiful to watch and creates a picture-perfect landscape. It is hard to imagine that Spring will be arriving in just weeks. Of course, Garden Catalogs are already arriving in my mailbox! That one thing provides hope.
January can also be the most depressing month of the year. Though I am not one to get depressed, I have found a multitude of ways to get through the month, so I don’t lose my mind. I have a few items I keep in my bag of tricks and I will share them with you.
I purge my closet of clothes I haven’t worn in the last year. I must admit, three bags went in the donation box this year. I am beginning to wonder if I am clothes hog.
I live in Minnesota! Once the temperature hits thirty below, I accessorize! I put on my multiple layers of sweaters and my winter coat. I often wear a cute scarf and matching mittens.
Let’s keep it real, my bank account does not allow me to go someplace warm. However, I would recommend it for anyone who can. May I suggest, Nevada. Not only is the weather warmer, but they have casino’s and buffets. I especially recommend Laughlin, Nevada. Great food, warm weather, and penny slot machines.
Eating! I tend to bake a lot of cookies during January. Today I will be mixing up a batch of peanut butter cookies to get me through the on-coming snowstorm. I also like to try new recipes during January. Creative cooking is always good for the soul. I especially like creating new soups in the crock pot.
Start a new project! I always start my new craft projects in January. Be it a new afghan to crochet, new set of dish towels to embroider, or a new quilt to sew. Okay, I will admit, I start all three each January. It is important to note, I have 52 unfinished quilts to complete in my sewing room.
I write. Whether it is starting a new year journal or working on a current or new novel, I write. Nothing like getting stranded at home in another foot of snow on top of the three feet you already have, to get your mind working on a story. I try to place my locations in warmer climates.
Television is a staple. New shows start in January, then there is always Netflix!
Remember Spring will be coming, though looking out my window it is hard to imagine. My pool is yet not buried in the snow, so you will often find me gazing lovingly out the window, saying, Hello Pool, sixteen more weeks and I can fill you again.
Remember we can do this! We are survivors! Leave a comment how you get through January.
For years, I set New Years Resolutions and never accomplished a darn thing. So I found a strategy that worked for me. At the beginning of December, I go over my past year’s goals and reflect on what I have accomplished and where I have failed. Yes, I can tell you now, we all fail at one time or another, it’s a part of life.
I look at the accomplishments as wins and failures? I spend the time to reflect on what I could have done to improve on my success. What worked and what didn’t work.
I reflect on whether my actions indeed brought me closer to my overall vision for the year. Did your’s? So I ask, did your actions bring you closer to your yearly goals? If not, you cannot expect the things in your life that you need and want to change: to change. Everyone has their different walks in life. The setting goals process is not a one size fits all method, but it is unique to your life’s vision. Whether it is personal goals or career goals, the goal map is yours to make to create change and success.
Here are some reasons to set those goals:
Goals will always provide you with a starting point and a destination to reach.
When you write your goals out, you see where you are going, what changes you need to make at the mid-point of the year, and if you are progressing in your goals.
The process of writing your goals will help you clarify your desires, understand their importance, and commit yourself to achieve them.
Remember there are always some sacrifices to be made, but stay committed and overcome the challenges. Work on your plan.
Your goals will help you focus your attention on your purpose and inspire you to be better.
When setting goals, be sure to define them in your overall vision for the year.
The secret to achieving your goals? Start them.
Write your goals for the year on the first page of your journal, or create a vision board. Whichever you choose, it will be there as a reminder for the year ahead.
Every month, take the time to review your goals and write about your accomplishments, consider the changes you need to make, and reflect on the challenges of the month in moving forward with your vision.
Halloween is one of the most likely holidays of the year met
with much skepticism. Parents spend time
planning costumes for their children as little monsters, vampires, ghosts, witches
and the current fad of the year for princesses and heroes. What child doesn’t love collecting candy? I have childhood memories of being three or four
years of age, thinking it was the best time ever. I learned all I had to do was ring the
doorbell, and the person gave me candy.
I thought it was so great; my mother told me I was out ringing doorbells
in the middle of the night looking for more candy. After that incident, she no longer allowed me
to eat a lot of candy after returning home from Trick or Treating.
The origin of the Halloween holiday began over 1900 years
ago in Europe. A Celtic celebration of a
new year celebrating the days as when the souls of the dead supposedly mingle
with the living. They celebrated the holiday with large bonfires, often still done
today. However, many religions look at
Halloween as a pagan day. So let’s view
as to why we should love the Halloween holiday.
You can be what you want to be
One of the primary reasons to love Halloween is that
people can dress up to be whoever or whatever they want to represent. It is
like a night to play “make-believe.” It’s not just about the scariest outfits,
but it is about imagination and characters that depict your personality or have
inspired you the most.
You can play dress-up without worrying about any judgment.
We can make bold choices and go as something people don’t associate with us. It
usually is the perfect time to open up and be brave.
The Adrenaline Rush
The rush is the best part of all adrenaline seekers.
Unlike all other holidays, this one is exciting as well as thrilling. You can
do all the daring things and scary things that previously frightened you. This
holiday makes you want to take a leap of faith and challenge yourself for new ideas.
If you happen not to be an adrenaline seeker, you can
watch horror movies or scare other people just for fun.
One primary reason to love Halloween is the amount of
free candy that you can collect. Typically kids aren’t even allowed to have
that much candy, but Halloween seems like a free pass, and you can have as much
candy as you like then. Apart from this, you can get all types of sweets like
toffees, chocolates, popcorn balls and so much more. Adults are also known to
have a sweet tooth. Nobody says no to free candy, so why not avail it when you
can. And we believe even those skeptics can’t refuse some good candy.
One of the favorite activities of Halloween is carving
the pumpkins, which is very exciting. All the family members usually carve the
pumpkins to display them around the house. Making weird and scary faces on
pumpkins as well as making Jack O Lanterns is an exciting activity that makes
you love Halloween and pumpkins. Some places even hold the best-carved pumpkins
competitions to celebrate the best-carved pumpkins.
Don’t have to buy gifts
Some of the skeptics who find Christmas better need to
know that Halloween doesn’t require you to buy gifts and give them. You can
wear your bed sheet and collect candy. Without spending a single dime, you can
have most of the fun at Halloween.
Another one of the reasons to celebrate Halloween is the
amount of exciting and scary decorations. Halloween decorations are creativity
at its peak. The spider webs, hanging bats, carved pumpkins, cauldrons, and
ghosts hanging around give the place an eerie vibe and festive feel. Creating
the decorations is an open-door to creative ideas and putting them in motion.
A Different Kind of Connection
On Halloween, people often dress as monsters and other
scary creatures, which help to reduce any fear of the unknown or the
supernatural. As a holiday, Halloween allows people to dress up into things
they are most scared of, and this helps them remove any fear of the being.
Halloween encourages people to be brave and be firm
against our fears. It connects us with our concerns as well as the unknown
realm. Halloween encourages us to take a peek into that realm and feel
comfortable with it.
Halloween is one eerie as well as a thrilling holiday,
different than all others. Some might be skeptical, but even they will be convinced
by reading all the above reasons. Some like the decorations; others love sweets,
but most importantly, Halloween helps us realize our mortality and helps us
face our biggest fears in the form of dressing up like them.
Nothing is more exciting
than spending quality time with girlfriends. But nowadays in a busy world
staying in touch with friends can be hard.
Sometimes our friends live miles away or have moved to another State to
establish her career, and now you all are living away from each other. Why arrange
a long weekend Girl’s Trip to spend time together? Spending a memorable time
with your friend’s is exciting and memorable because:
Girls Like Adventures
We know how to enjoy every little
moment with friends. Girls have massive excitement for trips across the world
with friends to enjoy every moment and make it memorable. According to our
secret sourcebook, girls when traveling, do not like to go fast, be lonely, and
we never want to visit someplace alone. We like to move at a slower pace, which
allows us to collect moments, take photos, and build exciting memories.
Diet doesn’t matter
You cannot enjoy your Girl’s Trip
without having great wine and yummy food. In my case, excellent Root Beer. Eat and drink whatever you want. No need to
worry about calories. Forget the dieting and eat everything to celebrate the
Girls love to do Gossips
What is more fun than gossiping with
your girls? Yes, this is the favorite hobby of every girl. What others wear,
how they live, what we love to discuss with our girlfriends? But remember
one thing; while gossiping about someone make sure that person is not around
you otherwise you will be responsible for any upcoming situation.
Girls love to do shopping
I can surely say shopping is my
weakness, and when we visit a new place, we have an urge to buy every unique
thing we find. Now it’s our best
friend’s duty to keep us in the budget and stop us from purchasing a lot of
useless items. We must pay attention and warn them if it is a beautiful item
that won’t fit in the vehicle on the road trip home. Most things, if needed can be mailed back
home. Look at all the options when making
RULES FOR A GIRL’S TRIP
Dress up in whatever you want
In our daily routines, we often are
dressed in business clothes or whatever fits in our career wardrobe. On a trip
with your girlfriends, you can wear whatever you want to wear. Feel comfortable
and feel relaxed about what you are going to wear. Your friends will not make
fun of you. Make every moment remarkable and excellent.
Capture every moment
Great pictures are an excellent way to
remember your trip. It can put a smile on your face even when you’re having a
bad day. Girls love to take selfies and we-fies. Take pictures of every moment. Whether you are in a hotel or cabin, girls like to take photos of every corner of
the hotel or cabin, and then they love to take pictures of food and share it on
social media like Instagram and snap chat to their other friends too, of
course, show them what fun they are missing.
Life is too short, you may spend 70
years working to make money or to establish yourself, but in the end, you may
have no friends to spend time with, to share your achievements and dreams. So
do not waste any time in making plans for a Girl’s Trip. Decide on a location with your friend’s, and make
the weekend memorable and joyful.
Fall is my favorite season of the year. The air is crisp; the trees are in brilliant
colors of red, orange, and yellows. This
time of year is the perfect time to sit out on my deck in the early morning
with that first cup of coffee, watching the sunrise and breathing in the smell
of fallen leaves on the ground.
It also begins my time of reflection for the year. Reflecting
on what my expectations were for the year vs. the state of things as they exist
today — reality, those things that we can and cannot see.
As I reflect on the past year and the expectations, I set for
myself; I found a valuable lesson.
Always expect the unexpected. I am
retired, enjoying the quiet days to myself while the hubby is at work. I joined a writer’s group, belong to a social
women’s group and love to spend the early morning hours on my deck starting my
day journaling, then moving to spend the day working on my Ignited Secrets Trilogy. I enjoy the fact the children are doing well;
the grandchildren are all now in college and life is good. My expectation? I am going to become a full-time author. What better way to spend retirement, right?
Then life happens. As
we age, our parents get older, and we must ensure they safe, healthy, and happy. My siblings and I did for our mother, who
passed nine years ago. I had lost my dad
when I was twenty-one. My mother in law
suffers from mid-stage Alzheimer’s. She
had been living with her daughter for the past four years. Life changed for them. Her husband took a new job in another State. Therefore, our life changed; someone needed
to step up and care for mom full time. Mom
has moved in permanently until which time she needs twenty-four-hour care.
Expectations vs. Reality.
I still take the time to journal early each morning, but most of my
writing is now happening on my kitchen table, rather than my sacred space in
the garage. Yes, I had my hubby build me
an office/quilting room in the garage.
What was once a two-car garage, became a one-car garage. By writing at my kitchen table, I can answer
the multitude of questions my mother in law has throughout the day.
It amazes me to watch her, realizing she is in the
moment. A place most of us strive to
be. Though for her, that moment is all
she has. No five-minute past, no one-minute
future. Yesterday while the President
was on every channel of the television for most of the day, she was trying to
figure out what he was talking about and why he seemed angry. Mom is 87, and her generation listened when
the President talked. Then she wanted to
know why someone didn’t fix the lighting. He looked orange. I covered these questions a hundred different
times yesterday as if it was the first time she had asked. I became creative; how do you explain today’s
Here I am in my season of reflection,
adjusting my expectations, and making new expectations for the year to
come. I write out my hopes, beliefs, and
my dreams for the future. Similar to New
Year’s resolutions, though I learned long ago I do not stick to
resolutions. Hence the new word expectations.
I split them out in three categories, my hopes for my grandchildren
and how I can assist them in their direction.
That can be anywhere from financially to embroidering them a new set of
dish towels for their new apartments as they start their life path. I reflect on my written life mission and
vision statement, making the changes needed to stay current.
I then spell out my
dreams for the year, what do I want to accomplish as a writer, how many quilts
do I want to make this year or finish, and what growth do I want to see in my
self for the year. These are my
goals. Simple right?
My signal for reflection is the changing of the leaves, my
sign for setting expectations is the first snowfall and breaking my goals down
to achieve success begins December first to be prepared to start the New Year
with a bang.
Everyone has different ways of continuing their journey
through life. I find mine works for
me. I encourage everyone to find their
way to make each new year the best year of their life. For mom, I fully intend to make this next
year a year of feeling safe, happy and fresh-baked cookies on the counter every
Everyone has a story. Life is a journey, and each new day begins a
new chapter for each of us. How are you telling your story? Keeping a journal allows us to write down our
experiences, our thoughts, our feelings, and our dreams for the future.
I have been journaling for over the last
fifty-plus years, and I still have every one of those journals. I recently took the time to look back at the
journals I kept as a teenager. I must be
honest here and admit I am in my mid-sixties today. Looking back on my teen years, I would have
to say in all honesty; I am lucky to be alive.
I was a wild child, though it was a different time in the late sixties
and early seventies.
Those journals are jam-packed
full of poems, drawings, trials, and tribulations, all of which have brought me
into what is I believe is called the golden years of my life. Looking back, I understand how those years
have shaped the woman I have become today.
One of the things I found in
reviewing those journals of my life is that I could carry on a complete conversation
with myself. I would ask myself a
boatload of questions or complain about my parents, fights with girlfriends,
and that description of my first kiss left me holding my stomach. I was
laughing so hard. The point is, I was
spending a lot of time self-dialoguing with myself. Did I answer the boatload of questions? Not always at that particular time, but
looking ahead in years, I found they pretty much answered themselves. Oh, and by the way, I got over the traumatic
experience of French kissing.
What I did find interesting is when I would come across a
problem I needed to solve, I always asked the same four questions. To this day, I still use those, but the wordage
is a bit different. Any life problem I
have had, I asked my self the following questions for many years:
What is the purpose of my having experienced
this the last (timeline)?
What am I trying to do here?
What lesson am I supposed to learn from this
What’s the real issue of personal growth for me
in this experience?
It is important to note that
these questions are not easy to answer in the throws of chaos. The last time I used them, it took almost a
year to work through the issues.
However, it will help you work through the experience and come out on
top of it, with a clear understanding of why this what meant to happen. As I said, the last time I answered these, I
came to understand one of the many valuable lessons. If you don’t listen to your guides, they will
pick you up and throw you on the floor.
Another factor I recognized was that I was establishing
future goals, whether it be New Year’s resolutions, or a daily, weekly, or
monthly goal. By writing out my goals, I
was able to write out a plan on how to achieve them and identify any obstacles
that stood in my way.
Another realization I had, with
goal setting, is that I found the way I dealt with the goals when they didn’t
look like I was going to reach them was to write out the problem and readjust
the aim to bring it to reality. Similar
to a Plan B strategy, though sometimes I made it to Plan W. We all take different paths in life. Often those paths reached a crossroads, and
it’s then I would have to choose to go left or right. When I was making those choices, it was
interesting to see I eventually reached my goals, though the journey could
sometimes be challenging, sometimes risky, but fun.
Through the twists and turns in
my life journey through the years, came personal growth. That’s the thing with journaling; you can go
back and reflect on where you have been and how much you have grown. I worked
through so many issues along that journey in my notebooks that it was
interesting to read on how my analytical skills evolved in handling life challenges,
how I wrote out each twist and came up with a way to move past the turns.
The other surprising aspect was
how my creativity opened. I would use
colored pens, draw, glued or taped in pictures of my friends and I going to
concerts, or hanging out at Cherokee Park, pictures from magazines, right down
to my favorite cookie recipes. News flash, I still do that today. I have a giant bucket of gel pens and even to
this day tape in exciting things I find. I also have been known to dry flower
petals I have grown and glue them in as well.
If you’re not journaling today,
you should consider doing so. Your life
is extraordinary, and your journey is meaningful. Every experience brings a lesson, joy, and
success in your life. It will bring you
to your authentic self, open your consciousness and bring transformation to
your life. So, start recording your life
today, I promise when you look back in your journal five years from now, you
will be amazed how far you have come.